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Generation Kill Review

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War from the makers of The Wire. Get some!

★★★★★

Another war, another exploration of the damage done to soldiers’ psyches in the battlefield… From Attack to Paths Of Glory, Platoon to Jarhead, screen history is littered with exposés of military bureaucracy, institutional idiocy and how, y’know, killing can mess you up a bit. So, it’s hard not to feel a little battle-weary sitting down to watch Generation Kill, even if it is from the makers of The Wire. Seven hours later, the weariness has been well and truly obliterated by exhilaration, truth, laughs and sadness. Toss the preconceptions: Generation Kill is essential.

Rolling Stone scribe Evan Wright was at the “tip of the spear” during the USA’s 2003 invasion of Iraq, passenger in a Humvee full of reconnaissance Marines, scrapping through the country on the way to Baghdad. His much-praised reports became a book, which became this series, co-scripted with The Wire’s writers, former crime reporter David Simon and ex-cop, teacher and Vietnam veteran Ed Burns. It’s as detailed, dense and initially indecipherable as Wire-watchers will expect, with characters only gradually emerging from the chaos and the dialogue scripted in the Devil Dogs’ own inimitable, aggressive argot, with no concessions to POGs (Person Other than Grunts). The lack of easily identifiable stories or, in screenwriter-speak, character arcs, is because Generation Kill is about the truth. For those who felt Stop-Loss and In The Valley Of Elah were too agenda-driven to be engrossing, this is the antidote, its intention simply to show the military experience as it is (the closest it comes to caricature is in the portrayal of dumb or callous officers). The marines emerge as dedicated, despicable, admirable, stupid, inclusive, racist, compassionate and terrifying. And war a mixture of the mundane and the horrifying, with even the bleakest situations shot through with black humour. As Ray (the brilliant James Ransone) says, “That was cool: who do we invade now?”